US Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently told the White House he would consider resigning if President Donald Trump fired his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, according to a new report.
Sessions, who heads the powerful Justice Department, made the warning in a phone call to White House counsel Donald McGahn last week.
Sessions was concerned Trump was close to dismissing Rosenstein because the president was furious after the deputy attorney general approved the FBI’s raid on the president’s personal attorney Michael Cohen on April 9.
Sessions’s message to the White House, which has not previously been reported, underscores that Trump’s removal of Rosenstein would provoke a political crisis and likely incite other departures within the Trump administration.
In the phone call with McGahn, Sessions wanted details of a meeting Trump and Rosenstein held at the White House on April 12, according to a person with knowledge of the call.
Sessions expressed relief to learn that their meeting was largely cordial. Sessions said he would have had to consider leaving as the attorney general had Trump ousted Rosenstein, this person said.
Last year, Trump sharply criticized Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Rosenstein then took over the investigation and appointed special counsel Robert Mueller.
Over 800 former Justice Department employees had signed an open letter calling on Congress to “swiftly and forcefully respond to protect the founding principles of our Republic and the rule of law” if Trump were to fire the deputy attorney general, Mueller or other senior Justice Department officials.
A month after Rosenstein became deputy attorney general, he was criticized for his role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Trump fired Comey in May 2017, setting off a scramble at the Justice Department that led to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation.
Mueller’s probe has expanded to include whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey, a claim the president denies.